Lots of ink is being spilled about how the GOP-led Congress should immediately move to block President Barack Obama’s executive over-reach in domestic politics.
However, among the first actions of the Republican Congress should be several constructive items focused on U.S. foreign policy, with a focus on competitiveness, independence, and national security.
First, push the Keystone pipeline proposal, which would allow the building of a pipeline to transfer petroleum from Canadian oil sands to existing refineries on the Gulf of Mexico. This is a major issue that has damaged U.S.-Canada relations; the administration has dodged the issue for years at the behest of its environmentalist cronies. Despite the fact that oil is cheap right now, every effort should be made to secure long-term energy independence for the U.S. and its closest allies—like Canada.
Pipe is stacked at the southern site of the Keystone XL pipeline on March 22, 2012 in Cushing, Oklahoma. U.S. President Barack Obama is pressing federal agencies to expedite the section of the Keystone XL pipeline between Oklahoma and the Gulf Coast. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Second, the Congress should approve fast-track trade authority for the president in order to promote free trade. The previous Congress held up this authority and essentially put on hold the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would open up free trade among a dozen countries, including our close allies Japan, Canada, and Australia, as well as countries such as Vietnam, Chile, and Malaysia. Just as previous free trade agreements have been major net winners for the dynamic U.S. economy, this is an important way to expand our exports and our influence.
Third, Congress can act on one point of immigration reform that has a major international consequence: raise the number of white collar immigrant visas to the U.S. and remove barriers to those individuals assimilating and staying in the U.S. This should be a narrowly crafted bill which solely focuses on significantly increasing the number of science and engineering professionals who want to stay and work in the U.S. For too long the U.S. has trained some of the world's smartest people at our universities and Silicon Valley and then sent them packing.
Fourth, surprise everyone by moving quickly to pass a budget for fiscal year 2016. Congress compromised in December to fund most things for fiscal year 2015. Congress should get ahead of the president—and the 2016 electioneering cycle—on the budget and do so with a couple of priorities in mind.
The Capital is mirrored in the Capital Reflecting Pool on Capitol Hill in Washington early Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013. (AP Photo/J. David Ake)
While limiting any and all growth in current and future budget outlays, provide a coherent funding roadmap for the Departments of Defense and State and related agencies like the Millennium Challenge Corporation. That includes directing DoD and State as to what the country’s fundamental priorities are, including cyber warfare, stability in the greater Middle East, support for our key allies, backing for friends facing Russian belligerence, and a stalwart presence in the Pacific to counter Chinese aggression.
The lack of certainty about funding, such as for the refitting of Navy ships or key State Department programs, has hurt our national security and costs us more over time. The Obama administration’s fickle approach to our friends (e.g. Israel, Colombia, Eastern Europe’s missile defense, anti-Islamists in the Middle East) and tolerance of our enemies (Russia reset, Iran “open hand,” Cuba opening) has sent a poor signal worldwide. Congress can adjust this signal by how it directs money to flow to national security and foreign policy agencies with a key focus on advancing U.S. national interests.
Fifth, Congress should publicly debate two Authorizations to Use Military Force. The first should focus on destabilizing North Korea. The entire world knows that North Korea is at war with its neighbors and the West. The time for negotiation is over and the U.S. should move aggressively to destabilize the existing regime. I am not saying drop bombs, but Congress should debate authorizing the Obama administration to move more dramatically toward striking at the foundations of the current ruling party with a goal of its termination.
Moreover, the Legislature should give clear guidance to the Executive on what it expects done about Islamic State. A Senate Committee took the first step in December, but this has gone no further.
Congress has the power of the pen and the purse. Although there is much to be done on the domestic front, the GOP-led Congress can move quickly to assert its historic role of oversight, funding, and support for a robust U.S. foreign policy that advances U.S. strategic interests, promotes free trade and capitalism, deepens our friendships, supports our allies, and counters the moves of our competitors and enemies.
Eric Patterson, Ph.D. is Dean of the Robertson School of Government at Regent University and the author or editor of 12 books, including Ending Wars Well (Yale University Press, 2012).
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